Katherine Noble, a senior in the English Department at the University of Texas in Austin, has received the Keene Prize for Literature  for her collection of poems, “Like Electrical Fire Across the Silence.” She will receive $50,000.
Noble is the first undergraduate to win or even place in the Keene competition, one of the world’s largest student literary prizes, which has been given annually to University of Texas students since 2006. Graduate students in the university’s Michener Center  MFA program typically take home the award.
“The judges were impressed by her audacious combination of spirituality with sexuality, by her wide range of literary reference, and her bold experimentation with the form of the prose poem,” said Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, chair of the Department of English and the award selection committee, of Nobel’s poems.
“I have been affected by images from biblical myths since I was a young girl,” Noble said in a press release, “and the narrators in my poems often wrestle to understand how God interacts with the physical world.”
In addition to Noble, three finalists will each receive $17,000. They are Corey Miller, a current Michener Center graduate student, for his collection of poems “The New Concentration”; Karan Mahajan, also a Michener Center graduate student, for an excerpt from his novel “Notes on a Small Bomb”; and Jenn Shapland, an English Department graduate student, for her essay collection “Finders Keepers.”
Established by the the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas , the Keene Prize is given in honor of E. L. Keene, a 1942 graduate of the university who “envisioned an award that would enhance and enrich the university’s prestige and support the work of young writers,” which would be given for “the most vivid and vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm.” The award is given to enrolled undergraduate or graduate students for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or plays.